Gloria Steinem, Heidi Schreck and Rosdely Ciprian | The 2019 MAKERS Conference
Gloria Steinem talks with Heidi Schreck and Rosdely Ciprian about their play, 'What The Constitution Means To Me,' at the 2019 #MAKERSConference at Monarch Beach Resort.
GLORIA STEINEM: Now, I'm lucky to have seen the entire play, all right, and you all have to see it on Broadway. It is a miracle. It is the most original, informative-- and I think that everything we create has a story. The play has a story, right? Like a person. - Yeah, absolutely. GLORIA STEINEM: So what made you think this incredibly original idea could be a play? HEIDI SCHRECK: I don't know where the idea came from. I knew for about 20 years that I wanted to make a play about this experience I had as a teenager, because it was so formative for me. I really did. I was a very-- I did love the Constitution as a young girl, and I wanted to revisit that time. And when I started to make the play I began, as I said, to become quite disillusioned with the document, and I also started to trace the history of four generations of women in my family, and began to understand the way the document had not protected them. And I just-- from that I sort of understood the form it needed to take. I understood that it needed to-- that I needed to actually appear as myself. That I needed to testify openly and honestly, and not sort of couch the play in any kind of fiction. That I wanted it to be sort of as real and human and anti-theatrical as possible. So that's kind of the genesis of it. Also I had spent-- I'd seen the silence that my female ancestors had sort of been forced to endure, and I felt like I am lucky and privileged enough to live in a time when I don't have to be silent. So I decided I should speak. [APPLAUSE] GLORIA STEINEM: OK, and here's the other miracle, all right? How did you two come together? ROSDELY CIPRIAN: OK, I was in the debate room, you know just practicing debate. I think I was-- GLORIA STEINEM: Explain the debate room. ROSDELY CIPRIAN: Oh, it's a learning lounge. It had-- at that time it had a lot of book, just shelves and shelves and shelves of books, and then it's a whiteboard right there, and then there's like more empty shelves. We were repairing it at the time, and there was two tables with three chairs, and there's Mr. Beattie's desk like behind the two chairs, and he's there and he's just-- and then there's a table. GLORIA STEINEM: Where was it? I mean the debate? ROSDELY CIPRIAN: I was in my school. GLORIA STEINEM: We don't all have a debate room. ROSDELY CIPRIAN: It was in my middle school. GLORIA STEINEM: In your school. ROSDELY CIPRIAN: Yeah, my middle school. GLORIA STEINEM: OK. His chair was just there. He was the judge, so he was constantly judging us. So you would just stand in front of the podium, it would actually be a podium, and you would debate, and he would tell you to stop and start, what you did bad, which you need to start over again. And we just keep working and working and working and working. And he was just like, oh. I think they're having auditions for this play. You should really try out. They're asking for a young debater, and I was just like, oh. OK. And then I-- and then I really got some more information when I was in my grandmother's house. My mom called my grandma, and then they were just like, oh, this audition. And they think they got you or something. It's like it was a long time ago. It's very scattered out. I don't really remember. HEIDI SCHRECK: Well you were only 12. GLORIA STEINEM: And what did you think when you first met her? HEIDI SCHRECK: I couldn't believe it. GLORIA STEINEM: When you met each other. HEIDI SCHRECK: Well, I-- so I was out of town at the first audition, and I got a call from the judges saying, we just met this incredible young debater. We have to cast her. And I wanted to cast someone 15, because I wanted to cast someone who was my age when I did the contest. But she was 12, and he said I just-- I think we have to cast her. So I came back and she came back in, and we talked for a long time, and she did her own speech sort of extemporaneous speech, and I really thought she was one of the most brilliant young people I'd ever met. And I agreed that we should cast her, even though she's only 12. GLORIA STEINEM: OK now, here's my part of this, OK? All right. I am utterly hooked on the fact that our constitution came from the Iroquois Confederacy. Right? HEIDI SCHRECK: Yes. GLORIA STEINEM: And in fact that meant that everybody was equal, everybody was included. There were circles of consensus building for the seven huge nations and so on. So a lot of the problems of our constitution that you point out did not exist in its origin. Right? So does that make you feel mad as hell? HEIDI SCHRECK: Yeah. Well, you when you came to the show you told me the story which I didn't know, which is that when Benjamin Franklin met with some of the leaders of the Iroquois Confederacy-- GLORIA STEINEM: He invited. HEIDI SCHRECK: Or invited them, right? GLORIA STEINEM: To into the Constitutional Convention. HEIDI SCHRECK: Oh, right. GLORIA STEINEM: Yeah, he invited Iroquois men. HEIDI SCHRECK: Yes. GLORIA STEINEM: He didn't have the sense to invite women, but when the Iroquois men arrived the first thing they said was, where are the women? ROSDELY CIPRIAN: Yeah, that makes me furious as well. And I-- yeah. I didn't know that story until you came to the play, and I think we're going-- [INAUDIBLE] we're going to put into the debate on Broadway. GLORIA STEINEM: Because this I think this speaks to the crazy way we learn history. HEIDI SCHRECK: Yes, absolutely. GLORIA STEINEM: I mean, if we learned history when people began as opposed to when Columbus arrived, thinking he was in India. I mean people are only called Indians because he was such a lousy navigator. He thought it was in India. We would have a very different view. Is there some way we can build that in? HEIDI SCHRECK: I don't know. I mean that certainly was the process of the play for me is going back and realizing that all the history I'd been taught was a lie. That so much had been left out of it, that it was so whitewashed. That was my sort of-- that's sort of the journey of the play is realizing how much I had been taught that was wrong. I don't know. I mean I feel like we're all doing it today, right? Where people have been doing it, incredible people like yourself, have been doing it for generations. But I guess we just keep trying to tell the stories that get cut out. GLORIA STEINEM: Well, yeah. I mean there are two things history and the past, and they are not the same. HEIDI SCHRECK: Right. GLORIA STEINEM: Right. So we're all trying to complete it. And I think it would be so much more inspirational. Now here's my other question. OK. The whole world is divided into two kinds of people. Those who divide everything into two, and those who don't. And the whole idea of a division into two comes from gender. So societies that don't have gender, and the Native American cultures did not have he and she. They didn't have gendered pronouns. There was much more recognition of diversity. Right? So is there any way we can build three or four or more? At least three-- let's say three-- into a debate structure? HEIDI SCHRECK: Oh. I mean we certainly have the people to do it. I think that's a fantastic idea. What do you thing? ROSDELY CIPRIAN: It seems very interesting. I want to get into that. I didn't even know about the Iroquois. GLORIA STEINEM: Yeah. ROSDELY CIPRIAN: Till now. HEIDI SCHRECK: Yeah. GLORIA STEINEM: Yeah, because I mean the native cultures didn't divide into two, so that you would-- and witches for instance, who were just working on women's health. That's why they were called witches. Really, I'm not making this up. OK. But a coven was 13 people, because they didn't want to be able to be divisible into two. Right? HEIDI SCHRECK: Oh yeah. GLORIA STEINEM: Smart. HEIDI SCHRECK: Yeah. That's really smart. Maybe that's why we're three people on stage. GLORIA STEINEM: Yes, now we've solved everything. We're three people. HEIDI SCHRECK: I mean, I do love the idea of fracturing the debate into-- or yeah, it's true that we're certainly still buying into the binary in the way we're approaching the problem. I think it's interesting to think about translating that. GLORIA STEINEM: But I'm really grateful that we decided to just keep the Constitution in spite of everything. Because actually the move for a Constitutional Convention comes from the ultra right wing and the control in upstate legislatures, so they can almost do it. And there's not too many things that scare me as much as the idea-- HEIDI SCHRECK: I agree with you. GLORIA STEINEM: Of rewriting the Constitution. Right? So thank you for your wisdom. [APPLAUSE] HEIDI SCHRECK: Thank you. GLORIA STEINEM: All right. And from now on we're going to start when people started, OK? Not all the bad stuff started. All right? OK. And we are going to challenge the whole idea of history. We're going to have three, not just two. But we're never going to forget the miracle that we just saw on this stage, and that we're going to see on Broadway. You all have to go.